15 races bumped up, none downgraded

January 13, 1991|By Marty McGee

The North American Graded Stakes Committee has released its annual revisions of graded races -- and not only is the controversy of 1990 a distant memory, but also not a single race was downgraded.

Only 15 races, including two previously ungraded Maryland races, were upgraded. Last year, 28 races lost Grade I status, leading to an outcry from officials at many tracks. Oaklawn Park, which was especially hard hit, took out a full-page advertisement in the Daily Racing Form and other publications, condemning the actions of the 12-person committee.

Because graded races are one way of gauging a track's prestige and importance, tracks are quite sensitive to changes. Grade I is the highest rating.

Maryland, the Pimlico Oaks and General George Stakes are now among the 460 graded races. The General George, to be run Feb. 16 at Laurel Race Course, is now a Grade II, and the Pimlico Oaks a Grade III. The Pimlico Oaks will be run in early

spring.

Just two races carry new Grade I tags -- the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Keeneland Race Course and the Beverly D. Handicap at Arlington International Racecourse.

There are 96 Grade I races in North America, with Southern California and New York tracks having the most. Maryland has three: the Preakness, Pimlico Special and Budweiser International.

The committee, made up of members of various racing associations, is instituting a warning system for 1991 whereby tracks will be alerted when a race is in danger of losing status.

*

Yesterday's Daily Racing Form reported that former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan was contemplating a career in thoroughbred racing.

Ryan, who owns a small stable of racing and breeding stock, told the Form: "I expect to get another coaching job, but if I don't, I'd like to train horses."

the wake of Ryan's controversial Jim McMahon-for-Randall Cunningham move in the Eagles' 20-6 playoff loss to the Washington Redskins eight days ago, here's one thing he should know: You can't change jockeys in mid-race, Buddy.

For many racing fans, a pilgrimage to Saratoga Race Course is a highlight of summer. This year, there may be more time to squeeze in a trip to "The Spa."

extra week of Saratoga -- extending its annual meet from four to five weeks -- is expected to be announced at a New York Racing Association news conference tomorrow.

The August meet may be opened one week early, in late July. "That's the widespread speculation," said one source.

*

The personnel changes announced Thursday by Joe De Francis, president of Laurel and Pimlico race courses, were significant but hardly surprising.

For Lynda O'Dea, who has resigned her day-to-day position with the tracks, a move seemed imminent after the August 1989 death of Joe's father, Frank J. De Francis, with whom she had a close relationship.

was expected," said Joe De Francis, "in the sense that the nature of things were different for her around here, considering the closeness she and my father shared."

Dea, who retains a working relationship with the tracks as vice president and consultant, received considerable praise in her six-plus years at the tracks, notably for her role in designing sports palaces at both tracks. She is starting a consulting business specializing in marketing, special-event planning and facilities design.

The hiring of Tim Capps as vice president of racing and public relations "fills a void we've had around here for quite a while," said De Francis. Capps, a knowledgeable and respected racing expert, previously worked for Thoroughbred Record and Matchmaker Services.

The April edition of Sports Illustrated for Kids will include a feature on Maryland jockey Gregg McCarron and his son, Matt, bTC who turns 20 next month.

mostly about him somewhat following in my footsteps," Gregg said. "Matt's a little too big to ride, but he has been involved in some of the amateur races in this area."

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